Media Releases

Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons

  • Labor’s fully costed jobs plan will address the state’s jobs challenge
  • More than infrastructure investment needed to rebuild post-COVID
  • Initiatives support hardest hit sectors, foster growth and innovation

Tasmanian Labor has released a fully costed jobs plan designed to stimulate the economy, foster business growth and get Tasmanians into secure jobs.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said job creation is Labor’s highest priority.

“Tasmania’s biggest economic challenge before COVID-19 was job creation. The pandemic has only compounded the problem.

“Creating jobs and getting more people into secure and stable jobs is Labor’s number one priority. But they must be good jobs.

“COVID-19 exposed the weaknesses in our economy: an overreliance on certain industries, high rates of casualisation and underemployment.

“We need to address these issues in our recovery or we will remain exposed to repeating the mistakes of the past.”

Ms White said Labor’s jobs plan, Working for Tasmania, sets out strategies to support sectors and industries hardest hit by COVID, and a vision for economy wide growth.

“The Liberals plan to build their way out of COVID. While we know infrastructure projects are important, much more is needed.

“Labor’s plan connects education, skills and training, private sector investment, government spending and infrastructure development to get more Tasmanians into work.”

Ms White said Working for Tasmania includes a number of key strategic initiatives, including:

  • A strategy to protect jobs in tourism, hospitality and the arts
  • A rebuild of TAFE from the ground up, and free TAFE courses in areas of critical need
  • An apprentice guarantee for older workers seeking to retrain
  • Bolstering secure jobs in the public sector
  • Programs to support small business growth
  • A jobs and innovation fund to drive business growth and create jobs
  • Initiatives to improve government spending decisions for the benefit of Tasmanians
  • Fast track construction of affordable housing
  • Enhancements of critical northern ports

“Our plan is fully costed, it includes achievable savings and redirected government spending and, critically, it will work,” Ms White said.

“The best thing we can do to strengthen the economy and put the budget on a pathway back to sustainability is to get people back into work.

“Labor’s jobs plan will build a better and fairer Tasmania.”

  • Intense pressure forces government’s hand
  • Allegations children harmed in multiple settings
  • Community must have confidence in inquiry

Labor has welcomed the announcement of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse potentially reaching across multiple areas of the government’s responsibility.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier’s belated recognition that an inquiry with sufficiently strong powers is needed has only come after significant public pressure.

“What’s been revealed over recent weeks is a series of horrific allegations that children were sexually abused in multiple settings.

“In addition to investigation of allegations involving former Launceston General Hospital nurse James Geoffrey Griffin, serious allegations have been made involving government schools and the Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

“Given the complexity of the matters involved, it’s important that an inquiry has the power to compel all necessary evidence across multiple government agencies.

“The community must have confidence that there will be changes made to systems and processes to ensure something like this can never happen again. That’s why a Commission of Inquiry is needed.”

Ms White said the government had been intensely lobbied to establish a Commission of Inquiry and – while belated – today’s announcement is welcome.

“This is the response needed by children, parents and staff of these government agencies, and they should not have had to wait this long.

“They have lost confidence in the system and need to have absolute faith that an inquiry will have the rigour necessary to identify failings in the system and set them right.

“No stone must be left unturned in seeking the truth.”

  • Unemployment out of control at 8.2%
  • Worst jobless rate in the nation
  • Gutwein Government doesn’t have a plan for jobs

Premier and Treasurer Peter Gutwein must finally acknowledge the shocking collapse in Tasmanian jobs under his Government.

Figures released today reveal a jobs emergency for Tasmania which is suffering the worst jobless rate in the nation.

Unemployment has soared to an alarming 8.2 percent.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said this makes Tasmania’s unemployment rate by far the worst in the country, followed by Queensland with 7.7 percent and a national average of 7 percent.

“This is shocking and Peter Gutwein has to face up to the jobs emergency that has occurred under his watch,” Ms White said.

“This is the first time since the GFC that unemployment in Tasmania has been above 8 percent and it’s terrible news for the state and the thousands of people who’ve lost their jobs – 3,700 of them in the past two months, 10,000 since February.

“There are now close to 40,000 Tasmanians on some form of unemployment benefit. Our fear is these numbers will only get worse when JobKeeper is withdrawn in March.”

The unemployment rate for women has increased significantly from 6.8% to 8.5%, while the rate for men has declined from 8.4% to 7.9%.

“Peter Gutwein does not have a plan for jobs, only a plan for unemployment.

“Peter Gutwein has no vision on how to restore jobs for the thousands of people who’ve been thrown out of work and his recent Budget has fallen totally flat in when it comes to creating jobs for these thousands of Tasmanians.

“Only Labor has a plan for jobs.” 

  • $5 million Reimagined Events Fund to help industry back on its feet
  • $20 million in upgrades for parks and natural attractions
  • Free TAFE policy will provide hospitality training

Tasmania’s devastated tourism, hospitality and arts sectors will be given the opportunity to rise from the COVID crisis with a significant package of incentives under a re-elected Labor Government.

Shadow Tourism Minister Rebecca White said the industry, which is critical to Tasmania, has been crushed by border closures and ongoing COVID restrictions.

Ms White said Labor’s Working for Tasmania jobs plan will reconnect people with venues, events and places, fund important infrastructure upgrades and invest in training that will deliver the workforce needed in recovery.

“Tourism, hospitality and arts industries are facing the peril of three winters,” Ms White said.

“Many businesses rely on the increased summer trade to get them through the lean winter period, but with international flights suspended and many major events cancelled, this summer will be a challenge.

“Labor’s plan will protect jobs in tourism, hospitality and the arts to get through to next summer.

“Nearly 3,500 jobs have been lost in the tourism and hospitality sector, including more than 700 in the past month and the industry continues to go backwards because the government just isn’t doing enough.

“The industry faces chronic skill shortages that put a handbrake on growth but Labor’s Free TAFE policy will provide free training for people wanting to work in these sectors.

“Labor’s broader plan to rebuild TAFE will also make training more accessible in regional areas and more responsive to industry needs.”

Labor’s major initiatives to support the crucial tourism industry include:

  • A $5 million Reimagined Events Fund to support events and festivals adapt to the challenges post-COVID, possibly operating events across multiple smaller sites and  running smaller, more premium events
  • An offer to underwrite insurance costs of up to $10,000 for events from Symphony Under the Stars to Festivale to Agfest
  • Providing $2 million to enable Business Events Tasmania to aggressively market the state as a business event destination for conferences and business events
  • Redirecting funding for unclaimed Make Yourself at Home vouchers for use in restaurants and other food and dining businesses
  • Setting aside $5 million for contingency support grants for businesses addressing fee waivers, bill relief and other assistance as need arises
  • Getting tourist rail back on track with $500,000 to fund public liability insurance for rail operators over four years
  • Boosting the Digital Ready Program, with additional funding of $100,000 to help tourism and hospitality businesses build an online presence
  • Upgrading facilities in Tasmania’s parks and natural attractions with $20 million for infrastructure upgrades, supporting up to 200 jobs in construction industries
  • Investment will significantly expand capacity of Tasmania’s northern ports
  • Labor will fast track delivery of two new Bass Strait ferries
  • Sea Highway will get major export businesses moving

A Labor Government will invest $150 million into northern Tasmania’s network of ports and other key infrastructure to get Tasmania’s crucial export businesses moving again.

The plan is a key initiative in Labor’s fully costed jobs plan, Working for Tasmania.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said a lack of investment in the state’s ports was constraining Tasmania’s export industries and putting a handbrake on growth.

“The Liberal government talks big on investment in infrastructure but ultimately, as all Tasmanians understand, fails big on delivery,” Ms White said.

“The government will not deliver on its fantasy $5 billion infrastructure plan because it has a woeful track record in building infrastructure.

“As an island state, Tasmania’s ‘Sea Highway’ is the most important highway we have. It supports our major export businesses in mining, forestry and agriculture, and brings high-value drive tourists to Tasmania.

“Our island status has been central to keeping us safe from COVID-19 and should also be the centrepiece of our economic recovery.” 

Labor’s Sea Highway Plan will invest $150 million into our ports and drive down costs for exporters.

It will also fast track delivery of the Spirit of Tasmania replacement ships. 

The plan includes:

  • Fast tracking the $850 million purchase of two new Bass Strait ferries
  • Contributing $80 million to upgrade the Burnie Port to accommodate larger vessels, improve bulk storage capacity and further improve ship loading efficiency, all of which will drive down costs for exporters
  • Contributing $60 million at the Port of Devonport to accommodate the new Spirit of Tasmania vessels, expand berthing facilities for transport and logistics providers, and create future opportunities for commercial fishing and the potential development of a marina and facilities for public events
  • Contributing $10 million at Bell Bay Port to create multiple berths for forestry and mining exports, increase the port’s fuel storage capacity, replace old fuel pipelines and establish a new transport and wash-down system for forestry exports

Shadow Infrastructure Minister Shane Broad said it was critical to invest in Tasmania’s Sea Highway in the post-COVID recovery.

“The Liberal government has not funded any of these initiatives in its budget.

“Only Labor is committing state government funding to these projects, and additional investment will be made by TasPorts, which has the potential to unlock even greater opportunity.

“And there has never been a more important time to add more capacity to Bass Strait.

“New ships with greater capacity will support the growth of businesses in the tourism sector and trigger growth and jobs in the forestry, mining and agriculture sectors.”

  • Labor will offer $30,000 apprenticeship guarantee for older workers
  • Labor’s plan provides a fresh start for workers affected by pandemic
  • $15 million apprenticeship guarantee will provide work for 500 Tasmanians

Older Tasmanians caught up in the COVID-19 unemployment crisis will be offered a fresh start under a re-elected Labor Government’s Second Chance Career Program.

Under the program, Labor will provide a $30,000 apprenticeship guarantee for older workers seeking a fresh career start as an apprentice. This is a key initiative in Labor’s fully costed jobs plan, Working for Tasmania.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said workers aged 35 or over will be eligible for the apprenticeship guarantee and employers who choose an adult apprentice would receive $10,000 each year over three years to remove the economic disincentive to employing older apprentices.

“Older unemployed Tasmanians face an uphill battle and face significant disadvantage in trying to enter the jobs market,” Ms White said.

“The COVID pandemic has seen a rapid rise in unemployment across Tasmania and older workers who have lost their jobs or have seen their hours cut substantially are at a greater risk.

“Without action by government and support for older workers many may never find meaningful employment again and that is devastating for families.

“Many older Tasmanians have skills and experience built up over years in the workforce but too often the cost of employing older apprentices means that employers are reluctant to give them a start in a trades or craft career.”

The additional employment cost of adult apprentices compared to junior apprentices can be anywhere from around $24,000 up to $42,000 over a three or four year period.

“While access to additional training and providing opportunities for older unemployed workers to gain new skills are important they are no substitute for providing real jobs which come with training and skills development in the workplace.

“Apprenticeships can deliver this and give unemployed workers a chance to build a new career.”

Under Labor’s $15 million program, 500 apprenticeship guarantees will be provided.

“While the Liberal Government is prepared to sit back and allow the unemployment rate to blow out to beyond eight per cent, Labor stands with disadvantaged older workers.

“We will ensure that 500 older Tasmanians who want and need a new career have the opportunity to do so in jobs where they are paid from day one in respected and well paid industries.”

  • Gutwein continues to hide behind excuses that don’t stack up
  • List of recipients in $26 million funding round must be released publicly
  • Tasmanian taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent

Tasmanian taxpayers continue to be kept in the dark on the full details of recipients of the $26 million Small Business Hardship Grants scheme as the Gutwein Liberal Government maintains its commitment to secrecy.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said there was no legitimate reason for the Premier to keep the details of the grants scheme secret and clearly showed the government had something to hide.

“The Premier has made what he knows should have been a routine disclosure into something unnecessarily controversial,” Ms White said.

“The secrecy surrounding the Small Business Hardship Grants Program is needless and it stinks.

“No one begrudges Tasmanian business receiving support in the middle of a pandemic but the Premier through his actions seems to be implying that there is some shame in businesses applying for assistance.

“Together with his Small Business Minister Sarah Courtney he has dragged all of the recipients of the program through the mud so the government can avoid scrutiny.

“The Public Accounts Committee has called for the public release of the grant recipients and the government must be honest and upfront instead of adopting its usual position of secrecy.

Tasmanians have a right to know how public funds are spent, particularly after the consistent criticisms that the scheme was unfair, confusing and inconsistent.”

  • Budget must address  jobs crisis
  • 5,400 jobs lost last month, 12,400 Tasmanians out of work
  • Change of direction needed from Gutwein Government

As we enter Budget week, Tasmanians need to see a comprehensive jobs plan for boosting Tasmania’s economic recovery.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Government’s claims of an economic turnaround cannot be taken seriously when Premier Gutwein continues to ignore the reality of the dramatic job losses suffered across the state.

“We cannot take the recovery for granted and Peter Gutwein must stop misleading the Tasmanian people about the strength of the economy,” Ms White said.

“Tasmania’s unemployment rate is the worst in the country after lockdown-hit Victoria.

“Any reading of the unemployment data shows the hard work of creating more jobs for Tasmania has not yet begun, with the unemployment rate climbing a full percentage point in the last month to 7.4%.  

“Peter Gutwein’s continued refusal to acknowledge the state of Tasmania’s jobs market shows this Government has no plan for jobs.

“This week’s State Budget will be critical in addressing this, and unless we see a dramatic turnaround in direction from the Gutwein Government the situation will only get worse.”

Labor is also determined to fix Tasmania’s political donations laws, which are the weakest in the country.

“We challenge the Gutwein Government to support Labor’s Donations Disclosure Bill when it comes before the Parliament this week.”

  • Labor calls for easing of restrictions on hospitality sector
  • Ban on stand-up drinking hurting pubs, clubs, restaurants and events
  • Stand-up drinking allowed in other states and territories

Labor is again calling on the State Government to remove the mandatory ban on standing while drinking in pubs and other hospitality venues.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said the government hadn’t been able to explain the evidence that supported the continued ban on standing to have a drink in hospitality venues.

“The government’s insistence that people must be seated at all times while drinking alcohol is causing more pain for an industry that’s already been hammered by COVID-19,” Ms White said.

“Many venues are reporting an ongoing loss of businesses as people cancel Christmas functions and make other arrangements so they don’t have to sit down to have a drink.

“The ban on drinking while standing up is inconsistent with the advice provided by public health experts in other states, making it even harder to justify.

“The ban is placing extra pressure on workers in hospitality venues who are left to explain the rule to patrons, which is impacting their mental health and that of operators.

“The hospitality sector is open to discussing how these restrictions can be eased and we urge the government to engage with workers and venues and set out a plan for recovery.

“The other necessary step the government needs to take is to improve our contact tracking and tracing capabilities.

“I urge the government to take a sensible approach and support the hospitality and events sector and our community by ensuring our contact tracking and tracing procedure is standardised across venues, as it is in New South Wales.

“Clever, technology-based solutions are available – the government should roll them out immediately and give our hospitality operators and community the best tools to manage any future COVID cases.”

  • Labor to deliver fully costed jobs plan
  • Package will deliver what small businesses need
  • Labor measures designed to rebuild better, fairer Tasmania

Tasmanian Labor will deliver a fully costed jobs plan to get Tasmanians back to work and deliver what small businesses need to get back on track.

Addressing a business gathering on the North West Coast, Labor Leader Rebecca White said the package is designed to strengthen the state’s economy and create jobs.

“Many of the infrastructure projects already identified as important to the economic growth of the North West would support sectors hardest hit by COVID-19 such as tourism,” Ms White said.

“These include the Coastal Pathway, the Cooee Crawl and Cradle Mountain redevelopment along with progressing the Next Iconic Walk on the West Coast. Investment in these projects will create jobs for locals and enhance the product offering for visitors.

“Tasmania’s biggest economic challenge before COVID-19 was job creation, and this has only been compounded by the pandemic, which at its height cost 20,000 Tasmanians their jobs.

“While some of those jobs have come back, there are worrying signs that the recovery has stalled and 2,600 jobs were lost in the past month.

“Labor’s number one priority is to create jobs and to get more people into secure and stable work, while giving small businesses the skills they need to keep going.

“We will be releasing a fully costed jobs plan in response to the State Budget, which will build on initiatives in our COVID-19 Recovery Package and detail what a future Labor Government will do to strengthen our economy and create more employment.

“The plan will also include measures to encourage buying local and reducing the cost of red tape compliance for small and medium businesses.

“Labor’s Free TAFE policy will also address the gaps in our skills and training system, to break down the cost barrier and provide the skilled workforce Tasmanian businesses need.

"COVID-19 has forced all of us to reflect on what is truly important – health, family, freedom and jobs. And we need to ensure those priorities are reflected in our policies so we can rebuild a better and fairer Tasmania.”

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